This is my second Pay It Forward offering of 2019. It’s a short story that I’ve written that features Allan-Michael. I hope you enjoy the story, Allan-Michael!
* * *
It was Brie that noticed the plant growing through the floorboards first. “Hey, A. M.?” She said. “Did you see this?”
Allan-Michael walked over to Brie. “What it?”
“I don’t know.” She said, looking down at it. “It looks like a plant of some sort. Maybe a flower?”
“It doesn’t look like a flower.” He said. Bending down to it, Allan-Michael reached out and touched one of the plants leaves. An electric spark snapped in the air and a warmth spread along his finger. Looking down at it, he could have sworn that he saw the small plant sway in a soft breeze, though they were indoors.
“It’s definitely not a flower.” Allan-Michael said with growing curiosity. “And right now, it’s growing in the middle of my restaurant.”
Putting his arm around Brie, they turned to look at what would be his first restaurant. He had been a chef at plenty of places, but this would place was different. It would be his. Looking around at the half-constructed restaurant, he was filled with an overwhelming sense of pride. He had made this. The floorboards just put in the last month and the lighting had been completed this morning. He could finally look around the restaurant and know where the kitchen would be, where the seating would be. Allan-Michael could see everything in his head, could even see people sitting in the chairs.
It was all finally starting to happen after years and years of dreaming. He had toiled at restaurant after restaurant, working for all kinds of owners, but the dream had always been there; he had long yearned for that feeling he could get when he would walk through the doors of an establishment and knew it was his. Now that the dream was a reality, he almost couldn’t believe it.
“Well, we should pull it up.” Brie said, looking down at the plant. “Can’t have it taking up table space and not paying for a meal.” She grinned and he kissed her forehead.
“Nah, we’ll leave it.” When he looked down at it, Allan-Michael was reminded of everything he had done to get here, the growing that he had done up until this point. “Besides, the little guy grew through the floorboards. He must really want to be here.”
As they were getting ready to leave for the night, Allan-Michael took one last look at the plant and whispered “Night, little buddy” before closing the door behind Brie and himself. In the dark of the restaurant, the little plant began to glow.
* * *
When they walked into the restaurant the next day to finalize the floor plan and start to get everything else ready, the firs thing that Allan-Michael saw was the small plant, though it was no longer small and now he knew what it was.
A young tree now stood where the plant had been. It looked as if the tree had been growing for a year rather than a month. Allan-Michael approached it carefully, Brie following close behind him. He ran his hand along its thin truck and ran his fingers through its leaves. There was the sound of soft wind that filled the air around them.
“It’s a tree.” Brie said, almost whispering. She approached it and looked at it with reverence instead of fear. “How could it grow so tall in one night?”
Shaking his head, Allan-Michael said, “I have no idea.” He looked at this tree that really had no right being inside his restaurant, but for whatever reason it just felt right. “I have no idea, but it did.” He looked at the tree and could swear that it ruffled it’s leaves as if to look its best for him. “You’re such a handsome fella, aren’t you?”
The tree ruffled it’s leaves again, as if it were a bird arranging its feathers, and a soft light shone from the ceiling of the restaurant to glow all around them, making the trees leaves look as if they were made of jade. Allan-Michael blinked his eyes, sure that he was seeing things and looked up to the ceiling for the source of the light.
“I didn’t know you put in a skylight.” Brie said.
They both looked for the source of light until it slowly faded away. Allan-Michael shrugged and moved to walk away but Brie stopped him.
“What are you going to do about the tree?” She asked.
“Nothing. It can stay where it is.”
“But A. M., your floors will be ruined!” Brie said.
Looking at the tree, Allan-Michael shook his head. “I don’t think so. Look at the floor, see?” He pointed at it. “It should already be warped and cracked. It’s not. It’s like the floor is making room for the little tree, so we should to.”
They moved away from the tree to finalize the floor plans and start placing the appliances and work out kinks in the lighting and the millions of other things there was to do. Allan-Michael had spent the last few months in between giddy preparation and forgetting how to breathe.
When they left for the day, Allan-Michael looked at the tree again. It might have been the fatigue, but he could swear that the tree had grown again. He shrugged and thought that there were stranger thing in the world than this. “Night little buddy.” He said.
When the door closed, the tree let out a soft golden glow and there was the sound of flutes playing somewhere in the distance, though there was no one to hear it.
* * *
It took another month to get the restaurant ready.
During that month, the little tree grew and grew and grew. Every time that Allan-Michael and Brie arrived in the morning, it was to find that the tree had grown bigger still. Even more bizarre was that the floor did not warp or buckle around the tree. Instead, it was as Allan-Michael had said: the floor was making room for the tree.
Just as difficult to explain were the odd things that kept happening around the restaurant. They would hear birdsong coming from the rafters in the ceiling and even saw a flock of blue jays fluttering about. Allan-Michael wondered if they had made a nest somewhere that he couldn’t see.
Glittering golden light that shone down on the construction workers that had no physical source. There was light when there shouldn’t be; no one could figure it out and there was no explanation for it. Even more bizarre, during quiet moments where there was no loud buzz saws or other construction noise, a soft flute music could be heard that left the listener feeling happy and content.
Allan-Michael and Brie tried to find an explanation for all of this but finally came to the same conclusion: there wasn’t one. Even so, Allan-Michael was pretty sure that the unexplainable could be traced back to the tree. He visited with it every day, rubbing its trunk with his hands and running his fingers through its leaves.
It had grown bigger and bigger each day that they came to the restaurant. It was now so tall that it went higher than the lights that hung from the ceiling and had grown as wide as an ancient tree far older than it was. That wasn’t the only thing they noticed, either. A soft cascade of ivy and other plants had begun to cover the walls. Flowers sprouted from those plants that filled the air with the warm scent of honeysuckle and ginger.
Brie always looked around with her mouth hanging open when the noticed something new, her dark eyes filled with wonder. “What are we going to do?” She asked.
Allan-Michael wrapped his arms around her and held her tight. “There’s nothing we can do. At this point, it’ll be what it’ll be.” He kissed her forehead and a soft breeze ruffled his hair, bringing with it the scent of lavender.
He looked around the restaurant and smiled. The chairs and tables were in place, the kitchen was ready and the ovens prepped. The floors had been spruced up and shone with a glow that made the whole place look brighter. Allan-Michael had decided on the menu already and the food was stocked and ready to go. Everything was done. He could hardly believe it. After months and months of preparation, it was almost time. The opening was tomorrow night.
Allan-Michael looked around the restaurant that he had built with the help of so many others. Everything he had learned and dreamed of all led up led up to this moment. Looking at Brie, he felt only love fill his heart for the blood sweat and tears she had put into helping make his dream a reality. He wrapped his arms around her even tighter and tried to convey everything he couldn’t say in that embrace. She looked at him and smiled and he knew that she understood.
* * *
The opening of the restaurant was a complete success.
Crowds of people moved among the tables, Alan-Michael and Brie and their chefs and servers were interviewed by several news stations. The clientele loved all of the food and, if everything went well, they would have some amazing reviews tomorrow morning.
The clientele were particularly taken with the atmosphere of the restaurant. The vines that covered the walls had bloomed with fresh flowers and butterflies flew from bloom to bloom in a multitude of different colours. The flute music played softly though there were no visible speakers and people watched as the small flock of blue jays flew throughout the night, doing air acrobatics for the guests as they ate their meals.
“It’s like I’m eating in a magical forest!” One reviewer said, taking hold of Allan-Michael’s hand. “I can’t tell you what an experience it’s been for me. It has made me remember the wonder of my childhood!”
“My pleasure, Ma’am.” Allan-Michael said. “I hope I’ll see you again.”
“Oh yes, and I’ll bring more people next time!”
The night was a rousing success. Allan-Michael and Brie couldn’t believe how well it went. When the night was starting to quiet down, and there were only a few patrons left, they took a quiet moment to stand under the tree that grew at the back of the restaurant and looked out at it all.
There was a soft glow that filled the whole place that made it look as if the sun was shining. The flute song was still playing; they never did discover where it came from. In the distance, they could hear the blue jays calling out, as if singing with the flute song. A soft breeze came from somewhere bringing with it the scent of jasmine, lavender and clary sage.
“There has to be an explanation for all of this.” Brie whispered. “There just has to be.”
Allan-Michael shook his head. “Magic doesn’t need an explanation.”
“Do you really think that’s what this all is?” Brie said “Magic?”
“What other explanation could there be?” He kissed her forehead. “Come on, let’s go see if those last few guests need anything.” He stopped to give the tree trunk a rub and Allan-Michael and Brie joined hands and walked over to the guests.
Unseen by them, a blue jay flew down and nestled itself in the branches of the tree. When it spoke, it did so in a voice that sounded like birdsong. “Do you think the human will ever realise it?”
The tree rustled its leaves and a soft breeze swirled around them. “He has a name.”
“Yes, yes, but do you think he will ever suspect?”
“What?” The trees voice was the soft rumble of the earth. “That the magic came from within him?” The tree moved branches in a motion that suggested shrugging. It was something that the tree had learned from Allan-Michael. The tree liked the fact that a motion with no words could say so much.
“Well, the human can create magic with food.” The blue jay said. “Why would he not know all of this comes from his magic as well?”
The tree moved his branches as if he were shrugging again. He quite liked the way his leaves sounded when he did this, as if they held the wind within. “Who knows?” The tree said. “Maybe someday.” Watching Allan-Michael with the guests and the way that he shone so brightly, the tree thought that if any human would realise they were made of magic and stardust, it would be him.
The tree began to sing, the deep rumble of his voice filling the restaurant with the sound of drums and wonder and waited for the next day to begin.